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“Grumpy Republicans” watch

The bad poll news for Republicans keeps on coming.

Houston Republican insiders are buzzing — with worry — about an election poll conducted privately for their local party.

Funded and designed by GOPers, the poll by Baselice and Associates essentially confirms findings by the Chronicle during the last six months that Republican candidates for judgeships and other Harris County offices have lost their built-in, 14-year-old advantage with voters. The survey showed a statistical tie between Republican and Democratic judicial candidates when voters were asked who they are likely to favor on Nov. 4. That’s a slide from 1994 and 1996 when Republican candidates won with 56-58 percent of the county vote.

Mike Baselice recently acknowledged as much to the Chronicle’s R.G. Ratcliffe, citing a current 1.5 percent edge for Republican candidates in Harris County, which is within the poll’s margin of error.

If we assume that the 1.5 point advantage Baselice found is accurate – with no disrespect intended, that’s almost surely not the case, since as noted in this post and acknowledged by Baselice himself in that Texas Monthly article on the Noriega campaign, nobody really knows what the turnout model looks like this year – then based on what we saw in 2004, some number of Democratic judicial candidates are virtually certain to win. The GOP would come away mostly victorious, but the shutout would be over.

That of course only considers the judicial races, where there’s likely to be much less variance in the vote totals from one race to another.

According to three Republican activists who have seen the poll numbers — they did not want to be identified because the results are supposed to be confidential — their picture may be worse for non-judicial contests such as the one between Republican Ed Emmett and challenger David Mincberg for county chief executive. In these races, the poll indicates Democrats may have a slight lead, they said.

It’s very nice to see them cite the County Judge race as a concern. I figure this means they’ve already written off the Sheriff’s race, since if anyone is in trouble this year, it’s got to be Tommy Thomas. For them to mention a different race suggests to me they’ve got bigger worries than that.

The forecast may be darker for Republicans if the poll did not take into account the anticipated huge turnout by minority voters with Barack Obama on the ballot. (The poll did show a statistically significant lead for John McCain in Harris County).

Let’s just say I have a hard time believing that. I can imagine Obama trailing the average countywide Democrat, but not by enough to go from 1.5 to 5 or more, which is about what a statistically significant lead would need to be. Frankly, it wouldn’t shock me if this year the donwballot candidates trail the top of the ticket on the Democratic side. I think a reverse Bush effect, in which there’s more Dems who just come out to vote for the President this year. How much of that, I don’t know, and if the coordinated campaign is successful it will be minimal, but it’s a real possibility.

But hey, it’s a long way off, and we haven’t seen and Democratic polling yet. So let’s just enjoy the “grumpy Republican” thing for now. May they stay that way for a long time.

Oh, and I’ve got to agree with Alan Bernstein: What in the world happened to Steven Hotze? Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Just wondering.

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